Posts Tagged ‘Petersburg’

October 2nd [1864]

Sabbath afternoon

I did not go to church today, as the carriage was filled by a party of young friends, who were on a visit to Ellerbie Town. Amiable & lovely girls have been with me for some weeks – Lanie Smith & Louise Cross, Maggie & Kate Shepherd.

My dear Soldier-Brother joined them here – his furlough is out & he leaves to-morrow for the seat of War. He fed the utmost solicitudes for his safety, as another battle is daily expected. May God protect him & spare him if it is his holy will! The siege of Petersburg is still pressed and our poor men, exposed in the trenches. We feel anxious and fearful of this time, and dread the winter campaign but

God rules, and to Him we look for help. He is our only shelter from “this windy storm & tempest!”

Source: Jane Evans Elliot Diaries #5343, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/e/Elliot,Jane_Evans.html

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September 22, 1864

Dined yesterday at the plantation with Jessie, Amo, and Mr E. A merry day but somewhat oppressed by the uneasiness we felt as to the cause of a terrific canonading which took place from daybreak to nine o’clock in the direction of Petersburg. Grant is reported as extending his lines to the left & is now three miles to the west of the Weldon R R. Lee’s policy, the wise ones say, is to allow him thus to weaken by extending his line & suddenly to hurl himself upon & break through it, thus dividing his army. It may be so, but I am not a Brigadier either by birth or brevet.

Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979).http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html

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August 31, 1864

It is as we suppose, A P Hill has flanked Grant on the left & holds the R R at Ream’s Station whilst Grant still occupies his entrenchments on it before Petersburg. The Examiner tells us that Grant is in a situation of great difficulty. God grant it! Before Atlanta Sherman is on the move, has abandoned one line of entrenchments which we hold. Some think it a feint to draw Hood out; others that Wheeler’s exploits in his rear have put him on short commons. If the telegrams speak truth (they are not official) our captures of supplies there are enormous. One item is seven thousand beeves!

We get some good stories of our common people from Yankee correspondants & which bear the stamp of truth. One old Lady near Atlanta said to a Yankee officer who rode up to her house immediately after the attempted flanking of Joe Johnson by Sherman “you’uns don’t fight we’uns fair! Mr Hooker now he went round!” Good soul, to her notions of military strategy were comprised in a fair stand up give & take fight!

Another was accosted by a party of Yankees “Well how goes it old Lady. You’re Secesh too I suppose?” “No! honey that I aint!” “Why hows that? You’re Union then?” “No, thank the Lord I aint that neither.” “Well what in the name of wonder then are you?” “I’me a Baptist, honey, a Baptist! For forty years I’ve been a hard shell Baptist and please the Lord I’ll die one too!”

As I am in an anecdotical vein this morning; I cannot do better than give one of Cuffee which is excellent. The negro baker of the Va Military Institute belonged to the Institution & during Hunter’s late brutal foray through the Valley, when he destroyed it & plundered the citizens of Lexington, Abram lost everything he had, clothes, money, everything stolen by the Yankees. After their retreat, relating his losses to some sympathizing friend he was asked, “Did you tell them that you belonged to the State of Virginia?” “No! No! sir that I did’nt if I had they’d have burnt me up along with the rest of the State property!”

In the Enquirer of yesterday is published an official Circular from Mr Benjamin giving an account of the late visit of Mr Lincoln’s Peace commissioners to Richmond. Comment is unnecessary.  Yankee, Yankee, when will you learn fair dealings? Mr B’s statement shows conclusively that Mr Lincoln’s move for Peace is but a political trick to blind the Peace party.

Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979).http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html

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August 28, 1864

The past week we have fully exemplified in our daily life the beauty & value of faithFaith! Is it in God? In our cause? Or in Gen Lee and his army? Or, as I hope and beleive, is it in all three? On Monday came news that we had recovered possession of the Petersburg & Weldon R R, that Heth had advanced, & after flanking had driven back the enemy, taking 3,000 (three thousand) prisoners, that in another fight 800 more were captured, & that the road would soon be in running order. All this occurred on Thursday and Friday 18 and 19th. Then an ominous silence until Thursday. No mail, no rumours even; yet, tho uneasy, we were not depressed. Congratulated ourselves that the Danville road was uncut & hoped each day for papers. They came at last & with them bad news. After his repulse on Friday Grant on Sunday advanced in heavy force, again seized the R R & driving our men back hastily & strongly entrenched himself, his centre holding the Weldon R R whilst his left flank stretched westward for more than a mile to the Vaughn waggon road. We attacked with great fury, carried his outer works, but retired from the inner which were found to be too strong for us & at going to press we had been unable to dislodge him. Then came the triumph, the comfort of our Faith. Serious tho our position was, terrible as would be the result to us nationally & personally should Grant be enabled to maintain himself, interposing as it were his whole body between us & Lee & allowing forage parties to range at will through our whole country which would be in his rear, yet not a despondant thought, not a doubt arose in our minds, but we rested in the calm conviction that Gen Lee would in some manner out general Grant & regain possession of the R R before he could inflict much damage upon us. Some feared as the intrenchments “which had sprung up like magic” were so strong that a great loss of life would ensue, whilst others more confident in Lee’s strategy trusted in his skill to manoevre the Yankees from their post; & true enough the next day brought news by letter from Mr R. Dunlop, now at Weldon, that the train from Stony Crk had come in & reported that two severe fights had taken place, that Lee had dislodged Grant, & then held the whole line of the road & that our prisoners were estimated at from 3 to 7000 & that he had captured 16 peices of Artillery. As yet no particulars and this is but passenger news, yet we trust & beleive it implicitly!

No official accounts of the capture of Memphis by Forrest, a complete surprise, the Yankee Gen Washburne  with his whole staff & 500 prisoners falling into our hands. Forrest was unable to hold it but retreated with his prisoners & immense booty. An offset to this triumph on our part we, however, find in the loss of Fort Morgan below Mobile which has fallen into the enemies hands, whether by surrender or assault we do not yet understand. Fort Gaines fall has never yet been explained; so, as in that case, we must also reserve our judgment until the facts are before us. Hood holds his own before Atlanta. Wheeler is in Sherman’s rear cutting off his waggon trains, destroying bridges, & interrupting his communications generally. He, at the last account, menaces Dalton where Sherman has collected immense supplies. Pray God he may succeed in destroying them! Northern news that Mr Lincoln has consented to receive Peace Commissioners at Baltimore. His famous bulletin addressed “To all whom it may concern” has brought him into such disfavour with the Yankee Peace party that he trembles for his reelection. He now wishes to patch up matters with them before the Chicago Convention nominates his successor — hence this “Canard.” He hopes with its feeble Quack to drown the voice of the “Peace Democrats,” who accuse him of a desire to prolong the War. Mr Lincoln, we thank you & we see clearly through your shallow designs. Your Olive branch is not large enough to hide the drawn sword with which you still menace us.

News but meagre from the Valley. Sheridan has fallen back from before Early (who is still at Strasburg) the Yankees say to a more defensive position on the Potomac. We say Early drove him to it! Early has received the cognomen of the “Great Harvester” from the fact that he captured many hundred Reaping machines on the B & Ohio R R &, dividing them amongst his men, he has been for weeks quietly thrashing & sending South the Wheat Crop of that fertile section & that under the very nose of the Yankee Gen! Below Wilmington Yankee War Steamers are shelling the woods along the Coast at Masonborough Sound & Rumour has it are preparing to land troops for an overland attack on Wilmington. “Nous verrons”! The Yankee prisoners in our hands are increasing to that extent that we are almost in the condition of “the man who caught the Elephant.” We know not what to do with them.

Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979).http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html

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August 16, 1864

Ten hot days since I last wrote in my Journal, during which I have been quite unwell — and sick servants & much company. Grant & Staff were reported at Harpers Ferry by the Northern papers, when instantly the rumour ran like wild fire that Lee had followed & confronted him with his whole army in the Valley, leaving Beauregard to defend Petersburg against the remains of Grants beaten force. A few days, however, showed the falsity of the Madam Rumour’s assertions, for Lee is at Deep Bottom & an engagement eminent between Grant & himself, the Yankee hero having returned to as rapidly as he left his dispirited army. Beauregard’s mine has been exploded & effected all it aimed at — a counter mine to a new Yankee work which it effectually nipped in the bud.

I omitted to mention that a few days after the burning of Gov Bradford’s house in return for the distruction of Gov Letcher’s, Hunter issued a “Retaliatory Order” & sent out a squad of men to burn the residences of Gen Hunter (said to be his relative) and Hon Mr Boteler. This they executed with the usual Yankee barbarity, when Early ordered McCausland & Bradley Johnson to show them what a losing game we could make them have of it by burning Chambersburg. This we are assured is the true history of the burning of that dutch Yankee place. Not to be outdone in ferocity, Butler sends a fleet of gunboats up the Rappahanock with orders to burn the residence of Mrs Seddon, the widoed sister-in-law of our Sec of War & to inform her that he did it because Early had burn Hon Montgomery Blair’s country house near Washington. Mrs Seddon & her children were turned out of house & home at a few minutes notice & left destitute. Her husband died before the War. She suffers for being the Widow of the brother of our Sec!

We have had a great disaster before Mobile. Farragut steamed past Fort Morgan with a fleet of [ — ] Gunboats mounting more than 200 guns & has almost annihilated our little squadron lying in the Bay! Worse than all, the best Ram we own, the Tennessee, Admiral Buchanan’s flag ship, fell into their hands after a desperate engagement.  Admiral B lost a leg & with his crew are prisoners. I do not mention the other boats by name but the Morgan only escaped. Next day Fort Gaines, altho victualed and armed for a six month seige unexpectedly surrendered — to the astonishment of every one. General Page, the superior in command, went over at night to see how things were progressing when he found Johnson the commander of the post on board the Yankee fleet arranging terms of capitulation. He left preemtory orders that he should not surrender, superceeding him from command at the same time, & returned to his own post. In the morning the Yankee flag was seen waving from the Ramparts. This is all we know & I refrain from all comments until we hear more. It seems incredible!

No news from Early. Yankee accounts of a Victory over McCausland & Johnson. We hope it was by men in buckram. Peace rumours are rife & intimations that the North West is going to divide the U S a new by seceeding & making terms with us to secure to them the navigation of the Miss, but little do we heed them. Peace must be carved out by the points of our swords! — naught else do we trust in. The barbarities of the Yankees & especially Hunter’s late conduct have embittered the war to that degree that Peace seems scarcely possible; I preserve particulars, marked [ — ]. The future of the Yankee nation one could say with Horace, “Posterity thinned by their father’s crimes/Shall read with greif the story of their times!” for they are surely laying up a heritage of shame for their descendants.

Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979).http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html

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Monday 8th [August 1864]

Tom gone to see about the cattle. Anon Jones here all day. I made a jar of pickles this morning, have been doing odds & ends all day. Mr. Henry got done his oats last week. The mail brought no news of importance. We had a terrible fight at Petersburg a short time ago. The yanks sprung a mine & killed about 100 of men & then took our breast works. Our forces rallied & recaptured them. Capt Jim Cathey was instantly killed, also Lucious Welch. I know Aunt Welch will grieve herself nearly to death about him.

Source: Diary of Cornelia Henry in Fear in North Carolina: The Civil War Journal and Letters of the Henry Family. Clinard, Karen L. and Russell, Richard, eds. (Asheville, NC: Reminiscing Books, 2008).

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Near Petersburg

Aug 8th 1864


My dearest Corrie

Yours last I have not answered which outght have been done last week, but being sick was the cause of my silence so long. I have had diarrhea for a week with but little improvement.  I’m going to the field hospital today where I can be more quiet. I think in a few days I will be able for duty again. If I should not get better pretty soon after I get to the hospital I think there will be some chance for me to be furloughed. Our present position is not very safe, well I don’t that it is anything like dangerous but then a fellow can be frightened so and so… all by one mortar shell.

We are lying in reserve say a mile from the Yanks (our advance being close up) rather gone into camps, but when the mortar and picket firing gets warm we lie low. The mine explosion of Grants was a terrible affair. It was set for us but caught more blue birds than gray. I will write in a few days again – will quit and try and eat some breakfast.

Give my love to all

Devotedly yours



** Lewis is discussing the battle at Petersburg in which Federal troops dug a tunnel under Confederate positions and then filled the tunnel with explosives, which created a larger crater.  Federal troops then poured into the crater area, only to be fired down upon by Confederates who lined the top of the mound.  Killed and wounded totals equal about 4,000 Federals and 1,500 Confederates.


Sources: Mike and Carol Lawing, eds., My Dearest Friend: The Civil War Correspondence of Cornelia McGimsey and Lewis Warlick (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2000). Original collections of the papers are in the Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.

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